Two former airport workers are suing the city of Portland, claiming they were pressured to resign because of age discrimination.

Robert Lang and Stephen Congdon filed their complaint in U.S. District Court in Portland last Tuesday. Both were maintenance workers at the Portland International Jetport until 2017. Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the city is aware of the lawsuit but would not comment on pending litigation or personnel matters.

The complaint alleges that a supervisor targeted both men with performance tests that were different from those given to younger employees, while also asking them repeatedly about their ages and plans for retirement. Their lawyer said the city also ordered them to undergo medical exams that went beyond their ability to perform their jobs.

“Mr. Lang and Congdon were asked all sorts of inappropriate and embarrassing questions, including some about their sex lives, their parents’ marriages, their jobs in high school and fears of spiders,” attorney Amy Dieterich wrote in an email. “Absolutely none of these questions were relevant to whether Mr. Lang or Mr. Congdon could plow snow or cut grass. The City then used the results of these illegal medical exams to force Mr. Lang and Mr. Congdon out of their jobs.”

The complaint says Lang began working for the jetport in 2003. He was allegedly forced to take a lower-paying job at the Barron Center, which is also owned by the city. He is now 68 and lives in Buxton. Congdon began working at the jetport in 2012 after working at the Pease International Airport for 17 years. He was fired from the city in January 2017. He is now 67 and lives in Shapleigh. Their lawsuit seeks back pay and other monetary damages.

The plaintiffs also filed complaints with the Maine Human Rights Commission. Both received “right-to-sue” letters in November 2018, indicating that they tried to pursue resolution through the commission but are moving ahead to a trial before the process is complete.

The commission reported that it received 204 complaints about age discrimination in fiscal year 2018, which represents about 6 percent of the complaints related to employment.

The lawsuit lists the duties of jetport maintenance workers as cutting grass, plowing snow, managing birds and wildlife, painting lines, making repairs inside and outside the airport, escorting people and planes around the airport, and other tasks.

The complaint says the two men began to feel pressure to retire in 2016. They pointed to a particular supervisor who repeatedly treated them differently than younger employees, singling them out for extra tests and demeaning them in front of their co-workers.

In one example, the lawsuit says the supervisor once asked Lang to read a series of airport signs “five times fast,” a test that was not given to other employees. The complaint quotes the supervisor, who allegedly said, “Bob, how old are you, why don’t you retire? Aren’t you too old to do this job? I don’t think you’re going to work out for us anymore.” The supervisor also barred Lang from driving at the jetport, pointing to an incident when he momentarily blanked on a word and another when he misidentified a bird 200 yards away.

Lang alleged the city then required him to see a neuropsychologist, who asked him questions unrelated to his work, such as how his mother had delivered him and his grades in high school. A doctor who later reviewed that report said Lang should not return to his job, even though Lang’s personal physician did not impose any restrictions on him. He was reassigned to another job at the airport and then moved to the Barron Center, and both jobs paid less than his previous position.

Congdon made similar claims about the supervisor in the lawsuit. He said his job changed from second shift to third shift while he was on medical leave for open heart surgeries. When his doctor requested that the city return Congdon to second shift, the supervisor refused. During a practice inspection one night, the supervisor yelled at Congdon for crossing the quiet airfield without permission from the tower, even though the tower was closed because it was 2 a.m. He blocked Congdon from driving, and the city required Congdon to get a medical exam and see the same neuropsychologist. Again, the complaint says the interview ranged beyond job duties, with questions about Congdon’s sexual activities and his fear of spiders. The city ultimately fired him.

The city is required to file a response within 21 days of service.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemegan

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.